'Young Frankenstein', more performances in LI parks

Ted Firetog stars as The Monster in "Young

Ted Firetog stars as The Monster in "Young Frankenstein," which opened at the Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, July 6 and continues in various Long Island parks through July 20. (Credit: Johnny Milano)

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The breeze at Planting Fields Arboretum played tricks on the cast and crew of "Young Frankenstein" on opening night Sunday of the theater-in-the-park series by Plaza Theatrical Productions.

As Frederick Franken-STEEN (Denis Murphy) lectures in his class, the blackboard blew over, reverberating in a loud splat. The audience chuckled. But Lewis Smyth, 5, of Bay Shore, thought it was hilarious. He was up front, watching the Mel Brooks musical with his twin siblings, Peter and Liana, 3, and their mother, Lisa.

"They've never had a theater experience before," she said. "I thought this would be a good opportunity. I remember going to the park to see a show when I was really young. 'Man of La Mancha.' I never forgot it."

An audience of about 500 was seated on beach chairs and blankets with the slate-roofed Hay Barn as a backdrop. Children were sprinkled throughout, along with retired couples and date-night young couples. An ensemble of 17 actors and an orchestra of 13 will bring "Young Frankenstein" to Nassau and Suffolk parks in this 30th anniversary season of Plaza Theatrical.

Over the decades, Kevin Harrington, co-producer with his wife, Phyllis, recalls magical outdoor moments, such as a chorus of crickets and a cloud-striped moon accompanying and illuminating "If I Loved You" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel." "All elements of nature came together to enhance the scene," Kevin Harrington recalls.

As for young Lewis Smyth, the Monster (Ted Firetog) impressed him most. "He's green like Shrek," he said.

'YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN' REVIEW

While Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein," the musical, remains a poor cousin of his musical hit "The Producers," the winking low-key stage version directed by Kevin Harrington comes off as dopey fun in the informal environs of outdoor theater.

The plot is simple enough. You won't miss much if you're distracted by someone passing the potato salad as you lounge on the lawn.

Frederick -- "Franken-STEEN," he insists, in a vain attempt to distance himself from family notoriety -- is the American grandson of Victor Frankenstein, the scientist who generated life in a corpse. Upon Victor's death, Frederick travels to Transylvania to sell the castle housing the infamous laboratory. He's greeted by Victor's staff, including Frau Blucher (Cathy Chimenti), who confesses her relationship to Frederick's granddad. "He Vas My Boyfriend," she croons lustily.

Gary Tifeld as Igor (pronounced EYE-gor) is the source of serial running gags, including a hump that migrates from right shoulder to left. Lab assistant Inga, broadly played (pun intended) by Carrie Heffernan, gives Frederick's distant fiancee ("Don't Touch Me," Lisa Berman sings) good reason to cheat on her intended. She's seduced into "Deep Love" by the Shrek-ishly green Monster, played by Ted Firetog. The Monster also has a yen for song and dance. The latter is quite an accomplishment in those tall platform shoes as he doesn't quite kick up his heels in "Puttin' on the Ritz."

Frederick, The Monster's dance partner and creator, is played in such a relatable manner by Denis Murphy -- deadpanning the dumb jokes so impishly that we laugh with him rather than at his one-liners.

A persistent breeze played tricks on the movable, minimalist set on opening night at Planting Fields Arboretum as the fluttering curtains revealed the off-stage actors, costumes and props and at one point caused a set piece to keel over. (Set design by Philip Jordan, costumes by Barbara Kirby). But the rag-tag nature of the scene changes only added a sense of impromptu charm.

One flawless element, however, stood out. The 13-piece orchestra, conducted by Eric Harrington, the producer-director's son who is about to embark on a national tour, gave the show the authentic sound of a Broadway musical.

While this 30th anniversary show by Plaza Theatrical Production is not exactly a monster hit, pun also intended, it is adorable, nevertheless. One note of caution for those bringing children: The dialogue is highly suggestive, with language that would rate a PG-13 in the movies.

'YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN'

WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Hewlett Point Park, East Rockaway; 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Heckscher Park, Huntington; 8 p.m. Sunday, Morgan Park, Glen Cove; 7 p.m. July 18, Eisenhower Park, East Meadow; 8 p.m. July 20, Steppingstone Park (Great Neck residents only)

ADMISSION Free; 516-599-6870, plazatheatrical.com


'MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM'

Frederic De Feis' Arena Players company has been presenting Shakespeare in the cobblestoned courtyard of the Vanderbilt Mansion for more than 25 years. Keith Cornelius, seen in recent summers in "Taming of the Shrew," plays the dual roles of Oberon/ Theseus opposite his wife, Jody, as Hippolyta/ Titania. Their daughter, Seneca, plays Helena.

WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Wednesdays and Fridays, 7 p.m. Sundays, Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Rd., Centerport

TICKETS $15; 516-293- 0674, arenaplayers.org


'LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS'

BroadHollow Theatre Company usually brings its big summer musical to the park. ("Cats" opens indoors Saturday night at BayWay Arts Center.) But this year, BroadHollow reprises "Little Shop of Horrors." The ever-popular mock musical by Alan Menken and the late Howard Ashman is more typical of summer fare with its light, witty score and not-so-scary theme: carnivorous vegetation!

WHEN | WHERE 8:30 p.m. Aug. 2, Heckscher Park, Huntington

ADMISSION Free; 631-581-2700, broadhollow.org


'THE TEMPEST'

Hamptons Independent Theatre Festival (HITFest), presents Shakespeare's storm-tossed tragicomedy at Mulford Farm -- practically in downtown East Hampton. Meanwhile, Bay Street Theatre presents two outdoor readings of "The Tempest," starring Tony winner John Glover in the role of Prospero. Glover recently appeared in the Public Theater's Central Park production of "Much Ado About Nothing."

WHEN | WHERE HitFest: 7 p.m. Aug. 6-24, Mulford Farm, 10 James Lane, East Hampton. Bay Street: 7 p.m. Aug. 16 (VIP benefit on Shelter Island) and Aug. 17, Mashashimuet Park in Sag Harbor

ADMISSION HitFest: donation. Bay Street: free on Aug. 17; 631-725-9500, baystreet.org

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